Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter I.—On the True Beauty.
Chapter I.—On the True Beauty.
It is then, as appears, the greatest of all lessons to know ones self. For if one knows himself, he will know God; and knowing God, he will be made like God, not by wearing gold or long robes, but by well-doing, and by requiring as few things as possible. 1574
Now, God alone is in need of nothing, and rejoices most when He sees us bright with the ornament of intelligence; and then, too, rejoices in him who is arrayed in chastity, the sacred stole of the body. Since then the soul consists of three divisions; 1575 the intellect, which is called the reasoning faculty, is the inner man, which is the ruler of this man that is seen. And that one, in another respect, God guides. But the irascible part, being brutal, dwells near to insanity. And appetite, which is the third department, is many-shaped above Proteus, the varying sea-god, who changed himself now into one shape, now into another; and it allures to adulteries, to licentiousness, to seductions.“At first he was a lion with ample beard.” 1576
While he yet retained the ornament, the hair of the chin showed him to be a man.“But after that a serpent, a pard, or a big sow.”
Love of ornament has degenerated to wantonness. A man no longer appears like a strong wild beast,“But he became moist water, and a tree of lofty branches.”
Passions break out, pleasures overflow; beauty fades, and falls quicker than the leaf on the ground, when the amorous storms of lust blow on it before the coming of autumn, and is withered by destruction. For lust becomes and fabricates all things, and wishes to cheat, so as to conceal the man. But that man with whom the Word dwells does not alter himself, does not get himself up: he has the form which is of the Word; he is made like to God; he is beautiful; he does not ornament himself: his is beauty, the true beauty, for it is God; and that man becomes God, since God so wills. Heraclitus, then, rightly said, “Men are gods, and gods are men.” For the Word Himself is the manifest mystery: God in man, and man God. And the Mediator executes the Fathers will; for the Mediator is the Word, who is common to both—the Son of God, the Saviour of men; His Servant, our Teacher. And the flesh being a slave, as Paul testifies, how can one with any reason adorn the handmaid like a pimp? For that which is of flesh has the form of a servant. Paul says, speaking of the Lord, “Because He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant,” 1577 calling the outward man servant, previous to the Lord becoming a servant and wearing flesh. But the compassionate God Himself set the flesh free, and releasing it from destruction, and from bitter and deadly bondage, endowed it with incorruptibility, arraying the flesh in this, the holy embellishment of eternity—immortality.
There is, too, another beauty of men—love. “And love,” according to the apostle, “suffers long, and is kind; envieth not; vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.” 1578 For the decking of ones self out—carrying, as it does, the look of superfluity and uselessness—is vaunting ones self. Wherefore he adds, “doth not behave itself unseemly:” for a figure which is not ones own, and is against nature, is unseemly; but what is artificial is not ones own, as is clearly explained: “seeketh not,” it is said, “what is not her own.” For truth calls that its own which belongs to it; but the love of finery seeks what is not its own, being apart from God, and the Word, from love.p. 272
And that the Lord Himself was uncomely in aspect, the Spirit testifies by Esaias: “And we saw Him, and He had no form nor comeliness but His form was mean, inferior to men.” 1579 Yet who was more admirable than the Lord? But it was not the beauty of the flesh visible to the eye, but the true beauty of both soul and body, which He exhibited, which in the former is beneficence; in the latter—that is, the flesh—immortality.
[On this book, Kayes comments extend from p. 91 to p. 111 of his analysis.]271:1575
[Note this psychological dissection. Compare Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, book vi. cap. 2, ἄισθησις, νοῦς, ὂρεξις, sense, intellect, appetition. Also, book i. cap. 11, or 13 in some editions.]271:1576
Odyss., iv. 456–458.271:1577
Phil. ii. 7.271:1578
1 Cor. xiii. 4.272:1579
Isa. 53:2, 3. [But see also Ps. xlv. 2, which was often cited by the ancients to prove the reverse. Both may be reconciled; he was a fair and comely child like his father David; but, as “the man of sorrows,” he became old in looks, and his countence was marred. For Davids beauty, see 1 Sam. xvi. 12. For our Lords at twelve years of age, when the virgin was seeking her child, Canticles, v. 7–16. For his appearance at three and thirty, when the Jews only ventured to credit him with less than fifty years, John viii. 57. See also Irenæus, Against Heresies, cap. xxii. note 12, p. 391, this series.]
Next: Chapter II.—Against Embellishing the Body.
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